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The Observer Dec. 22

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The Observer was inspecting the neighborhood Christmas door decorations on a stroll with the dog the other night and the Christmas scheme on the front door of our childhood trudged its way to the surface of the old gray matter.

Our mother’s idea of decorating for Christmas was to replace the lamp over our doorstep with a wicker birdcage stuffed full of those big lights on insulated cords that were in use in the middle of the 20th century. We’re not sure what the connection was between bird and Christmas in her mind, but it was tradition.

The birdcage is gone. The Jingle Elf is not. It survives to this day in Jennifer Reed’s family.

The Jingle Elf is a product of the 1970s, a clown-like Christmas decoration with arms and legs covered in burgundy and gold sequins threaded with little bells. His head, Reed says, was “vaguely creepy. I always loved him.”

But her little sister was embarrassed by the Jingle Elf and when Christmas came around, there were fights about whether to put him on the tree. Her sister began hiding the elf when Reed went off to college, hoping she’d forget all about it during Christmas vacation. Reed found him one year in the piano bench.

Jingle Elf survives, though he’s lost half his sequins and looks scrawny, she says. He still jingles, and he’s still vaguely creepy. “And every year he’s front and center on my parents’ tree. So I guess I won.”



Headline on a story filed by an Arkansas News Bureau reporter on Weyerhaeuser plant closings: “Paper cuts hurt Arkansas.”



Reuters reported over the weekend that British police are looking for three men who stole an 11-foot long bronze sculpture by Henry Moore from the front of the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire last Thursday. The story didn’t mention how much it weighed, but 11 feet of bronze, even hollow, doesn’t sound easy to pocket.

Which makes us wonder about “Standing Figure: Knife Edge,” Little Rock’s Henry Moore, which now stands in front of Union Plaza at Capitol and Louisiana. Is our 11-foot-tall bronze in danger of being snatched away and sold, as British police fear in their case, as scrap?

The stolen Moore, “A Reclining Figure,” is worth an estimated $5.3 million — as a piece of art. As scrap bronze, it would be worth less, but easier to sell. Little Rock’s Moore, owned by the Metrocentre Improvement District, is valued at around $2 million.

We would expect Sol Alman not to turn a blind eye to someone trying to peddle a rather unwieldy piece of bronze in the form of an armless, headless goddess, melted down or no.

An art critic once described “Standing Figure” as “robust, earthy, dynamic, morphological, monumental, abrasive, heroic.” Let us hope it is too robust for someone to try to pinch.



Outside of the Times’ own Christmas party, we rarely hear live music at a Christmas party. Usually somebody might be spinning records of tried-and-true holiday songs, such as Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

But the Observer wandered into a Christmas party last weekend and a jam session broke out, at Jerry and Didi Sallings’ South Little Rock home. Jerry is the brother of blues guitar great Mark Sallings and plays a mean, funky guitar as well. So does sister Joan, who was there with a well-preserved 1976 Fender Telecaster in hand. Brett Qualls, a public defender in Little Rock, brought along his keyboard. Lawyer Greg Jones pounded away at the drums. There was a sax player as well. The Christmas tree topper: John Davies, the bassist of the Cate Brothers.

The music went well past midnight. The Observer, rumored to have played some keyboards and guitar in bands some many years back, was invited to jam as well, and ended up having quite a time. Standard, classic three-chord blues tunes and funk tunes kept the crowd going. Impromptu blues singers took the mic. Occasionally the band settled into a ballad for some of the couples to get close.

The Sallingses’ teen-age daughter complained about the song selection. “Don’t you know something maybe from my era?” she asked the musicians. Somebody else hollered for some Dave Matthews. The jam band members just looked at each other with quizzical looks. The Allman Brothers were about as “new” as this crowd was going to get from us.




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